What’s the difference between celesta and piano?
The difference between the celesta and the piano lies mostly in their construction: celesta’s keys are smaller than the piano’s, there are fewer octaves in a celesta, and the way they sound differs a lot.
In a piano, the small hammers attached to each key will hit a respective string, thus generating that note instantly; on the other hand, the celesta contains smaller shanks, horizontally thicker but vertically thinner than a piano’s, very similar to the mallets found on vibraphones and marimbas.
What is the celesta used for?
The celesta is a musical instrument. Therefore it’s used for making music. Due to its similar playability to a piano – it has a similar key distribution which can make it more relatable to play – the celesta can be executed and included in many music styles without requiring new techniques to be learned.
What is unique about the celesta?
The unique aspect of a celesta is that it’s an idiophone – meaning that it produces sound by the instrument’s vibrations. This occurs by the way each key makes a note resonate, consisting of small shanks activated when a key is pressed.
The resulting tone sounds like small bells or even a children’s instrument, being very sweet, delicate, and pleasant to the ears. Aside from the timbral characteristics, the celesta is a transposing instrument, meaning that every note played sounds one octave higher than the written pitch.
When was the celesta first used?
The celesta was invented in 1886 by Auguste Mustel, a French harmonium builder who developed his father’s projects of a similar instrument. However, the first use was by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky in his symphonic poem entitled “The Voyevoda,” which premiered a few years later, in November 1891.
A more famous early use of a celesta was in another of Tchaikovsky’s works, this time in the ballet “The Nutcracker,” more specifically in the “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy,” which premiered in 1892.
Top 9 Celesta VST plugins 2023 with the most realistic sound
1. Muze Celesta
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The beautiful sounds of a celesta are contained inside this library.
The great tones perpetrated by a celesta depend on the instrument’s acoustics to resonate clearly, which is an important tonal aspect. Muze Celesta not only managed to replicate this sound character digitally but also included multiple sources and built-in effects to be added, delivering a highly versatile sample library.
It is common to notice in similar libraries that Muze Celesta contains a huge load of sample files to be freely used and modified. You have 5,41GB of samples in lossless compression, just over 3,200 files that capture the true essence of a celesta instrument.
Muze Celesta includes 45 sources which you can load your sound from, including “Yamaha Celesta,” “Mallets,” “Bells,” “Keys,” “E Piano,” “Guitar,” and more. Aside from the multiple choices you can make, you can also blend these sources in a single window: the “Hybridizer” panel divides the screen into four tiles, each capable of loading a separate source with “Tune,” “Attack,” “Pan,” and “Reverb” controls to be set.
There are 12 built-in effects in Muze Celesta, like “Delay,” “Reverb,” “Limiter,” “Compressor,” “EQ,” “Stereo Panner,” and more. They can be displayed in the main user interface window, with relative controls like “Bass,” “Mid,” and “High”, or “Mix,” “Threshold,” and “Gain,” depending on which effect you choose.
Going beyond what most libraries can offer, Muze Celesta includes a powerful “Panorama” processor which focuses on nailing a surround mix for your virtual instrument, fully capable of automation. The main window is divided into “Input” and “Output” segments, with the former containing controls like “Distance,” “Size,” “Lfe Vol,” and “Balance,” and the latter containing “X Offset,” “Y Offset,” “Diverg,” and “Quality.” In addition, both segments contain a master volume fader capable of automation like the other parameters.
The “Mixer” window offers various microphones to be adjusted properly. You can tweak the volume, panning, mute, or solo the “Close,” “Room,” “Room Wide,” “Vintage Room,” “Vintage Close,” and “Vint Close Tape” models, aside from controlling the entire blending with a “Master” channel. Each track also can be loaded with the aforementioned built-in effects.
Muze Celesta offers many cool features in a single package, which can often be overwhelming and confusing. However, this is gladly not the case since all parameters, effects, or controls are housed in an elegant interface, which displays the source of your instrument and which effects are active at the moment. The knobs and parameters are also easy to tweak and monitor.
This plugin is available for macOS 10.5 or higher (64-bit only) and Windows XP or higher (64-bit only). It runs in Kontakt version 5.8.1 or higher (it will not run in the Free Kontakt Player).
Muze Celesta is a sample library that houses more than you’d ever need for a virtual celesta instrument. As a result, you can expect high-quality sound among the sample files and easy-to-use controls that make a substantial difference when activated or modified. One cool feature is the wide variety of microphones, which can significantly expand the sonorities and timbres of your celesta.
2. Modartt Celeste
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Make your piano sound more diversified with this expansion pack.
Modartt is famous for its excellent Pianoteq 7 virtual piano collection, which includes the best and most famous models and some other complements related to the piano. One of these is the Celeste bundle expansion, which includes a celesta, a glockenspiel, a toy piano, and a kalimba.
- Velocity curve
In Celesta, you can freely adjust the velocity curve in your notes via the dedicated window located on the left side of your user interface screen. In essence, you have an XY graph with MIDI CC value versus dynamics (going from pianissimo to fortissimo), and you can just drag around the intersection point to make your dynamic unique.
- Keyboard division
If you look closely at the keyboard on the lower side of your screen, you can see that some divisions were added to the keys. You can easily switch between a “Mint” and “Worn” condition, simulating an old instrument that needs intonation, for instance.
- Mallet bounce
This option brings more realism to your playing by adding or removing any bouncing noises the mallets inside a celesta might naturally make when playing it. But, of course, you can set the perfect amount of such noise, and the result might be better than expected.
Some nice built-in effects were included so you can adjust your sound the way you want without leaving the plugin window. For example, you can add “Tremolo,” “Reverb,” “Delay,” and “Equalizer” on top of your music to make the virtual instrument resonate the exact way you want.
The “Diapason” menu is set at 440 Hz at the centre position. This means that the A note resonates in that exact frequency, but you can quickly alter that by choosing any other value. Aside from detuning your entire instrument, this can be handy for a spooky score or an offset thematic song.
An amazing collection of microphones is available in this collection for your use. Feel free to pick anything from omnidirectional, cardioid, and figure 8 options, such as the classic U87, C414, R84, and many more.
- Velocity curve
This plugin is available for macOS 10.7 or later (64-bit only) and Windows 7 or later (64-bit only). It runs in VST, VST3, AAX, and AU plugin formats and is also in standalone mode.
Modartt Celeste houses many great options and configurations to make your piano sound amazingly good. The Celesta expansion adds everything you might need from such an instrument, with great quality sample files and great options, like the multiple microphone models available. This can be a great tool if you already own Pianoteq 7, as this can only run inside the Modartt’s software.
3. Cinesamples Randy’s Celeste
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The eeriest sounds can come from this awesome virtual instrument.
Randy’s Celeste is one of the products included in Cinesamples’ Artist Series of sample collections and virtual instruments libraries. As the name implies, they reached out to Randy Kerber, responsible for the soundtracks in iconic movies like Titanic, A Beautiful Mind, and the first three Harry Potter films, which is where the inspiration for this plugin came from.
- Artist Approved
Randy Kerber is renowned for his extensive work in cinema scores and song arrangements and is one of the top musicians in the Los Angeles area. The idea behind Randy’s Celeste came from the unique timbres and tones he crafted with the instrument, and it was carefully sampled to extract this same performance.
The two main central knobs in the user interface are “Attack” and “Release,” If you’re somewhat familiar with these parameters, you’ll know that they offer tweaks for your overall dynamics. As their descriptions imply, “Attack” controls the strength when a key is pressed and “Release” sets how fast the note will resonate.
Below the two controls mentioned above, you’ll find a “Low-Hipass” knob. In essence, it’s an equalizer or frequency sweep that allows certain frequencies to be boosted or cut. Turning to the left gives you a “Lowpass” setting, and turning the other way around sets a “Hipass” configuration.
Randy’s Celeste not only includes built-in effects but there are dedicated segments on your screen to set them properly. For example, for the reverb, you have “Wet,” “Dry,” and “Length” knobs that set the perfect ambience for your melody, aside from an on/off switch.
The same concept applies to the delay, located on the opposite side of the reverb. You can mess with “Mix,” “Feedback,” and “Delay Time,” giving you subtle and nice repetitions that can greatly increment your tone and expand its sonority significantly.
- Artist Approved
This plugin is available for macOS 10.5 or higher (64-bit only) and Windows XP or higher (64-bit only). It runs in Kontakt version 5.8.1 or higher (it will not run in the Free Kontakt Player) and UVI Workstation/MachFive v3 (iLok required).
The best thing about Randy’s Celeste is that it was tailored to replicate the characteristic tones for which Randy Kerber is most known. The celesta is very present on the soundtrack of Harry Potter due to its eerie and creepy sounds, but you must dwell a bit before getting to that tone so easily. This is why Cinesamples sampled this awesome virtual instrument, with straightforward controls and effects that can assist you even further in nailing that tone.
4. Wrongtools Celesta Duet
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Two celestas are better than one.
The main concept behind Celesta Duet is a bit obvious – instead of having one celesta ringing beautifully, why not have two? So Wrongtools borrowed two of them from the Stavanger Symphonic Orchestra, one new and one old, and sampled them simultaneously, with a pianist playing both instruments with one hand on each celesta.
- FX Engine
Located at the centre of your screen, the FX Engine is one of the cool features of Celesta Duet. This XY graph lets you seamlessly shape and builds changing soundscapes, often reaching beautiful results worthy of cinematic productions. You can also instantly learn MIDI CC values for each axis.
- Settings view
The dedicated “Settings” view houses the controls for adjusting the velocity curve in your virtual celesta duet. You can set the best curve for your sound by clicking and dragging it and stimulate the round robins to pick up neighbouring notes at your command.
Included instruments in Celesta Duet are “Celesta duet,” “Celesta vari trems,” and “Celesta octave vari trems.” The last two are best fitted for textures and similar uses, but it doesn’t stop there: you can also choose from some variations between these three instrument types, such as “Ethereal Entry,” “Magical River,” and “Solo Excursion.”
The included reverb effect in Celesta Duet is very nice-sounding, thanks to its capability of loading impulse responses very easily. This means that your reverb will have perfect reflections based entirely on real measured ambients that may provide a crucial ambience in your final sound.
- Mic positions
The microphones used to capture an instrument’s sound are imperative in determining how it will sound in your final mix. To get these sounds expanded significantly, you can tweak the microphone positions – “Close,” “MS-ST,” “Decca,” and “Hall.”
Celesta Duet not only excels in delivering great instrument tones but also focuses on getting the most realistic experience out of a virtual instrument. One cool way to achieve that is implementing the common noises every instrument makes, and in this case, you can set the pedal quirks and release damper pedal sounds.
- FX Engine
This plugin is available for macOS 10.9 or higher (64-bit only) and Windows 7 or higher (64-bit only). It runs in Kontakt version 6.4.2 or higher (it will not run in the Free Kontakt Player).
The best sample libraries are the ones that can offer reliable sound as well as showcase bold aspects that may change the virtual instrument’s sound significantly. Celesta Duet does that mainly by offering a celesta duet in a single package. You can expect fuller, richer sounds, thanks to both instruments being played simultaneously. The included effects, such as the IR-loaded reverb, can also help make it a modern, trustworthy sonic tool.
5. Triple Spiral Audio Dreamcatcher – Celeste
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The best and most relaxing elements of a celesta are gathered in this beautiful package.
Celestas are very specific instruments, generating a gentle and delicate sound that can be widely used in sweet melodies and creepy settings. The main goal behind Triple Spiral Audio Dreamcatcher – Celeste is to deliver the most calming, relaxed, and subtle celesta sounds possible, with the best samples and configurations to be made.
- The instrument
Triple Spiral Audio decided to use a very poignant celesta instrument in this library: they sampled all sounds from a five-octave Schiedmayer celesta, one of the best and most known brands to manufacture this instrument to this day.
All instruments rely on dynamics to resonate properly, and the celesta is included. To get the best nuances nailed properly, Dreamcatcher – Celeste features four round robins and four dynamic layers, interchangeable at will and functional with MIDI CC configurations.
A cool element that helps make everything more ethereal is a padded instrument, usually included in synthesizers. Triple Spiral Audio includes 16 different pads alongside the main celesta instrument to expand its smoothness, allowing you to mix it with the best soundscape instruments available.
- Microphone positions
You can freely adjust the microphone positions to further set your sound the way you want. The options are “Close,” “Mid,” and “Far,” and they can be blended and mixed in any way you want via the dedicated controls for each mic.
Dreamcatcher – Celeste contains exactly 1803 sample files, which are available in lossless NCW compressed format and totalizes a bit over 1.9GB in size. This means you can have great-quality files of the sampled instrument without weighing too much on your CPU.
Some nice built-in effects can make this celesta sound even more like a dream: feel free to add “Delay,” “Reverb,” “Phasis,” “Choral,” and “Flair” effects at your will, each being excellent in shaping the ambience, space dimension, or complementing the harmony of your celesta.
- The instrument
This plugin is available for macOS 10.9 or higher (64-bit only) and Windows 7 or higher (64-bit only). It runs in Kontakt version 6.5.1 or higher (it will not run in the Free Kontakt Player).
The best option for dreamy, ethereal sounds is Dreamcatcher – Celeste, undoubtedly. Few libraries focus solely on one type of sonority, and Triple Spiral Audio managed to nail that perfectly. Either from the built-in effects or the celesta instrument itself, the sound aspect of this library convinces you that lightweight, padded sounds can be just as nice as more aggressive tones.
6. Noiiz Celesta
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A straightforward option that nails the celesta timbre.
Sometimes, you need a trustworthy and reliable tool to make your music come to life. Noiiz specializes in building software like that, with easy controls and a clean interface that stimulates the user to explore the virtual instrument and its effects, in this case, the celesta.
Celesta is a nice sample library boasting high-quality sounds and cool features. However, the crucial part about these collections is the samples themselves, and Noiiz ensured that the instrument chosen to be recorded multi-sampled – meaning that you can count on multiple sample files for the same note, like a distant and close captured sound, for example.
Pianos and celestas are similar in their keys, and their function is very similar. They offer the same notes and dynamics, so, naturally, they can be played interchangeably. To nail the most aspects, Noiiz included an extensive round-robin and velocity layers to get even closer to a realistic sound, as if you were playing a real instrument.
To expand the final sound, Noiiz added some sound effects that can be relevant to the celesta sound. For example, you can modify the pitch, apply a filter in a certain frequency range, and add pinches of delay and reverb to get the best spatial simulation possible from a small studio room to a large stage.
- The recording
The samples in Celesta were recorded at Westpoint Studios in London, UK, one of the best score stages for sampling instruments. The microphones used were a pair of Neumann U87s, with the celesta played by Josh Bevan. Five octaves and a half were sampled, with the additional notes resampled across the entire keyboard range.
This plugin is available for macOS 10.9 or higher (64-bit only) and Windows 7 or higher (64-bit only). It runs in the free Noiiz Player.
Simple and effective software tends to be among the best because they are easy to operate. Noiiz Celesta is just like that, with amazing quality and mindful parameters that were included only to add more to its sound. The instrument was very well sampled, with outstanding quality to detail, and the built-in effects can be greatly useful to expand its sonority.
7. Sonokinetic Celesta
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Perfect for your cinematic productions.
Sonokinetic doesn’t play light when talking about sample libraries. We covered their excellent Sonokinetic Accordion library a few weeks back, and the same quality is included in Celesta. This collection offers the magical sounds of a celesta, brilliantly captured from the best possible instrument available.
A great sample collection is defined by how close it sounds to the instrument it aims to reproduce. Sonokinetic has quite an experience with that, and the best way to prove this is using the three velocity levels included in Celesta, which greatly expands the dynamics and how each note will resonate in the ambient.
- Sustain samples
The sustain pedal is a great tool for crafting different soundscapes. For example, both piano and celesta include one, and the sound is greatly altered in both cases. To get this aspect nailed intrinsically, Sonokinetic sampled the celesta with the sustain pedal activated and deactivated – capturing its sounds separately helped provide more authenticity to the final tone.
- Mic positions
Three distinct microphone positions can be explored in Sonokinetic Celesta. Their respective control knobs are located on the right side of the screen and are responsible for setting the “Close,” “Overheard,” and “Balcony” mic volumes perfectly.
Every sample file in the Sonokinetic Celesta was recorded in 44.1kHz, 24bit, NCW format with the highest possible recording quality. This collection contains over 4,000 sample files and has an uncompressed size of 3,1GB. These samples offer royalty and copyright-free usage, which means you may use them in your projects without danger of violation.
The reverb included in Celesta isn’t your typical reverb: this effect was designed to be relevant to the celesta instrument alone. You can see the “Reverb” section at the left side of the screen, with an on/off switch, “Amount,” and “Size” knobs.
This plugin is available for macOS 10.10 or higher (64-bit only) and Windows 7 or higher (64-bit only). It runs in Kontakt or Free Kontakt Player version 5.7.1 or higher.
Sonkinetic always delivers great products with distinctive quality and expression. Celesta doesn’t get too far there, bringing excellent sounds that can be everything you may ever need from a celesta virtual instrument library. The samples are nice-sounding, and the reverb included can bear different ambiences with the help of impulse responses.
8. Soniccouture Celeste
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The perfect rendition of an authentic Schiedmayer celesta.
Schiedmayer is an instrument manufacturer based in Stuttgart, DE, and one of the leading companies in building excellent celestas. Their instruments are uniquely crafted and set the standard for similar models. Luckily, now you can have one without breaking the bank with the help of Soniccouture.
- Top and back mics
When you load the interface, one of the first things you’ll see is two black circles in each upper corner. They represent the volumes for the top and back microphones that capture the celesta’s sound. Each can be turned on and off, and the knob allows for mixing between the two mic’s levels seamlessly.
There are five small symbols on top where it reads “Celeste,” right at the top centre screen position, and they are “Editor” sections of respective parameters. The leftmost icon represents the envelope, and clicking it activates a menu where you can control the usual ADSR parameters, velocity sensitivity and the modulation between velocity and attack.
The next symbol allows filter editing. Here you can control the “Cutoff” frequency and choose the filter type best suited for your sound, for example. In addition, you’ll find controls for envelope depth, highpass filter, filter resonance, and velocity to filter cutoff depth, aside from ADSR controls.
The files included in Soniccouture Celeste were recorded in stereo 24-bit, 48kHz – perfect for your cinematic productions! – totalizing 12GB in uncompressed size. The NCW compression brings that number to only 6GB, but in any case, you’ll have 6,352 sample files to choose from.
The third symbol that allows for further editing is responsible for control over the LFO rate. You can set the appropriate modulation depth of your pitch, the amplitude, the filter cutoff, and the overall panning. Additionally, there are two menus near the “Rate” knob: one allows setting the LFO waveform, while the other displays some LFO sync options.
The fourth small symbol is a microtuning editor, which lets you create new and custom tunings and load them into Celeste. You can also export scales and tunings to other Soniccouture instruments very easily.
- Top and back mics
This plugin is available for macOS 10.9 or higher (64-bit only) and Windows 7 or higher (64-bit only). It runs in Kontakt and the Free Kontakt Player version 6.2 or higher.
This is probably the only item on our list to be a product of a partnership between a major instrument-building company and a plugin developer. Shiedmayer is the only company in the world to build celestas according to the inventor’s original specifications, and that says a lot about the sounds included in Soniccouture Celeste. However, the best part lies in the multiple functions hidden underneath its user interface, allowing for a significant expansion in terms of sonority.
9. Chocolate Audio Celestial Celesta
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The vintage vibes of the original celesta instrument are now yours to explore.
Chocolate Audio’s team got to put their hands on an original Mustel celesta built in Paris, which was properly maintained and kept by skilled luthiers in Millan. As we’ve learned at the beginning of this article, Victor Mustel is the inventor of the celesta, and this is an original exemplar of the instrument, now fully sampled into a Kontakt library.
- Mics used
To best capture, all nuances of this beautiful instrument, a pair of AKG C414s from the 1970s was used as “Spot” mics alongside another trio of AKG 415s and AKG CK22s to nail the “Decca” position.
Celestial Celesta offers four sound sources for you to work with. Two are related to the microphone above positions – “Spot” and “Decca” – and the other two are called “Diffuse” and “Hype.” Each source is housed in a channel strip with individual volume, pan, mute, and solo controls. You can also tweak the stereo “Width” and “Reverb Send.”
- Purge Muted
The “Purge Muted” is a useful tool for saving CPU power. In essence, clicking this button will remove from your memory any muted sources, as having four channels running simultaneously can be heavy on your overall performance.
Instead of displaying hundreds of different effects with complicated parameters to tweak, Chocolate Audio included 17 presets for the user to explore. They showcase the best of what Celestial Celesta can do, with some examples like “Bell-Like,” “Flutey Pad,” “Full Sustain,” and “Orchestrated.”
- Key level trimming
This nice feature is useful for altering the volume of a specific key in your MIDI controller. Sometimes, one, in particular, can be raised just a bit in volume, and others might benefit from a slight volume cut. With the “Key Level Trimming” panel, you can do so with every key in your controller as easy as it gets.
- Mics used
This plugin is available for macOS 10.9 or higher (64-bit only) and Windows 7 or higher (64-bit only). It runs in Kontakt version 5.5.2 or higher (it will not run in the Free Kontakt Player).
Chocolate Audio is a collective of audio engineers that care not only about sound quality but also the user experience. Celestial Celesta offers both by bringing an excellent vintage exemplar of a Mustel celesta to your productions while simultaneously displaying nice sonorities and elements. This can be extremely useful to producers who need an authentic vintage sonority in their next track.
Free Celesta VST Plugin 2023
Necromare Music Celesta
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The best free celesta tones are included in this elegant plugin.
A talented artist named “Necromare” created a bunch of free VSTs a few years back, and luckily one user remembered to back up the installers in a card. This is the main story of Necromare Music Celesta – which doesn’t have an official website or anything like that. Mysteries aside, the only things that remain are the nice sounds coming from this virtual instrument.
- Four octaves
Celesta features an instrument that contains four octaves (as most celestas often do). This means you can fully use this range to create melodies and songs as you wish.
- Body knock sounds
One nice element that increases the reality of a virtual instrument is the non-musical possible sounds that may come out of playing it. For example, Necromare Music includes body knock sounds that add realism and can be imperative in delivering an authentic instrument performance.
- Four octaves
This plugin is available for Windows XP or higher (32-bit only). It comes in VST plugin format.
Surrounded by mystery, Necromare delivered a bunch of nice-sounding virtual instruments a while ago. They were saved and shared by a fan, and this is how we got to put our hands on them. Celesta is one of the available key instruments, and it’s very simple to use: just play it. No knobs to mess around with, just sounds. Other than being Windows exclusive, the big downside is that it’s limited to 32-bit architecture, which is a bit old.
Celesta is a rare instrument to be included in a track or song. They are somewhat related to the piano, but their sound is unique on their own. The key arrangement is just like a piano’s, and that helps in making it more popular and played by many.
Virtual instruments need to capture the instrument’s essence as best as possible, and most items on this list do that. They showcased quality and attention to detail when capturing these samples, and the final result pays off as being among the best virtual replicas of a celesta one can hope to use.
Among the best choices, we have options like Muze Celesta and Sonokinetic Celesta, which showcase the impressive sound quality and offer more than enough elements to increment the sound of your virtual instrument. In addition, both offer a real amazing aspect of the instrument: versatility.
Another nice option is Noiiz Celesta, which can be more attractive based on its elegant, simple user interface that delivers the same results as the items mentioned above.
As usual, sometimes the best you need is a replica of an authentic instrument, and two names on our list come to mind: Soniccouture Celeste and Chocolate Audio Celestial Celesta. The former sampled an authentic Schiedmayer celesta, while the latter is nothing less than an original Mustel celesta, the model created by the inventor itself. Both display enormous quality and can be interesting to explore due to their unique sound aspects.
It’s imperative to test any products you may wish to use before buying them. So feel free to try them out, and remember to have fun.
See you next time!
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Eduardo Cardoso is a musician and audio producer based in São Paulo, Brazil. He studied both music production and theory in college and has successfully launched his career as a solo artist in 2021. With over 10 years of experience with the music business, he currently acts as a session musician, music producer, audio editor, and content creator. Read more..